Family of girl (14) shot dead fear Legacy Act could end hopes of justice

Annette McGavigan was playing with a friend in Derry on September 6th, 1971, when she was shot by the British Army

Relatives of a teenager who was killed by the British Army have said they are devastated that new legacy legislation could end their hopes of securing justice.

Annette McGavigan (14) was playing with a friend in Derry on September 6th, 1971 when soldiers moved in to quash rioting. She was shot dead and nobody has ever been convicted over her killing.

There is a mural in her memory in the Bogside area of Derry and her family has been actively campaigning for more than two decades to bring those responsible to justice.

They said they had a major breakthrough earlier this year when a former soldier was interviewed under caution as part of the murder investigation.


Annette’s brother Martin and sister May said they were delighted when the arrest was made, describing a bit of hope for their family after 52 years.

However, they fear that the UK government’s Legacy Act, which will halt future civil cases and inquests relating to Troubles deaths, will prevent the case ever reaching court.

A legal challenge by the McGavigan family is among 16 to have been launched against the law.

“We would have thought it would have been sorted before now, but we’re going to keep fighting on, and hopefully it will get there,” Mr McGavigan said.

“The British government seem to be a law unto themselves trying to brush all this under the sand – they want to dig a hole in the sand to bury their heads in it.

“The politicians are against it (the act), the Irish Government is against it, everyone is against it. If it happened anywhere else in the world, there would be uproar.”

Ms McGavigan, who was 11 when he sister was killed, challenged the Irish Government to take action against the law.

“I don’t think they’re fighting enough, they are talking the talk but they need to walk the walk,” she said. “It’s not good enough.”

She said Annette was seen as “an angel to our family” prior to her death. “She loved art, writing poems and there was talk of her becoming a nurse when she grew up.”

Ms McGavigan said the siblings were at school on the day Annette was killed, but a bomb scare resulted in them being sent home early.

“Annette went to play with a friend, and I went on home. My ma asked me to go to the shop to buy some fruit, while I was going to the shop a girl I know stopped me on our street and said there was rioting at the Little Diamond and a wee girl was shot,” she said.

“I got home and said to my mammy, she said, ‘you aren’t allowed out because of the rioting’, I told her a wee girl was shot, and I’ll never forget the words, my mammy said ‘God help her poor mother and father whoever they are’.”

They later discovered the girl shot was Annette.

“It was mayhem,” she said.

Mr McGavigan described their mother as a religious woman who was left broken-hearted.

“She has since passed and isn’t here to know where we have got to with this, and if we ever get justice. That’s the sad thing about it, she’ll never know.”

Sara Duddy, from the Pat Finucane Centre, which has been supporting the McGavigan family, said the situation is very concerning with the case having taken a long time to get to this stage.

A PSNI spokesperson said: “We can confirm that a suspect was interviewed under caution as part of the murder investigation, which remains active and ongoing.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.” - PA